by Anna Isabel C. Sobrepeña
Dr. Ted Achacoso makes a strong impression at first meeting. While there is no set image of what a doctor should look like, his appearance is atypical in his profession. For one, his hair tied back in a ponytail. The lean and buff frame with non-surgical, six pack abs sports his standard black with a neckpiece that substitutes for a tie. Gray strands notwithstanding, there is a youthful energy about him that spikes up when he flashes an unreserved smile. Then, he is eating bulalo for lunch. The man is a foremost name in anti-aging and wellness medicine, and he is eating generous portions of bone marrow, especially prepared as part of his ketogenic diet.
LIKE A FERRARI
Dr. Ted is the co-founder, chief science officer and medical director of BioBalance Institute. He maintains a tri-continent practice, promoted Health Optimization Medicine (HOMe®), a framework for medical practice of wellness, and refers to himself as the Chief Oneironaut and Biohacker of BioBalance. “When I was running my artificial intelligence/groupware company in Rosslyn, Virginia, my official title was “Chief Daydreamer.” He explains, “In Greek mythology, the “Oneiroi” are the various gods and demigods that rule dreams. Since BioBalance is the pioneer in health optimization borne in my dreams, especially on how to make the best ones with a higher purpose come true.”
He spoons the gelatinous, soft, fatty food from one of the beef bones split vertically and consumes before continuing, “A biohacker is someone who pursues biology and life science with tools equivalent to those of professional labs. And, I might add, does all the experimentation on himself! For example, in my clinical practice, except for estrogen, I have taken all the hormones, nutrients, and occasional drugs I prescribe to my clients! I do not call them patients because they are not sick. So, when I prescribe you a health-optimizing regimen, I know exactly how you will feel. I know both the painful discomfort of nightly injections and the pleasurable delight of morning wood. As to having a professional lab for personal use, I must confess that I do have a CRISPR-Cas gene editing lab in my beach house in Delaware. What can I say? I am not much for buying a Ferrari. I just want my body to run like a well-oiled one!”
The beach house lab is a preoccupation of leisure for the man who registers an intelligence quotient of “186 on a bad day and 210 on a good day.” Albert Einstein had an IQ of 160. Dr. Ted was in first year of med proper at 18 years old. “There was a bunch of us called into the counselor’s office within the first week of college enrolment,” he recalls. “We were getting extended aptitude tests, although we had already chosen our undergrad majors. The tests took five days. Each day, we were getting whittled down and by the fourth day, there were only two of us left. On the fifth day, there was only me taking the tests. Apparently, they were choosing the top 30 scorers in the college entrance test to take those non-culturally corrected tests. Follow-up tests in the US sent some agencies chasing my tail, but those are stories for another time.”
He became a doctor at 22, a fellow for interventional neuroradiology, a research professor of pharmacology and a clinical professor of neurology at 25, was a professor of medical informatics and of interventional neuroradiology in Washington, DC at 28 and published a book at 30 on the biomathematics of consciousness. He was senior science and technology advisor to global investment funds. Later, he founded and managed a groupware company at 35, using his US patents on distributed emergent computing.
About that time, he was asked to conjecture where medicine was headed to 10 years from then? “To anti-aging medicine, to regenerative medicine, and to health optimization,” he replied. Dr. Ted followed his own projection 10 years later. “At age 45, I retrained in Paris with the pioneer of hormone and nutrient balancing and got double-board certified in Anti-Aging Medicine and in Nutritional Medicine,” he recounts. “Prior to that, I was trained in Medical Informatics and Artificial Intelligence in Washington, DC by the founder of the field of Medical Informatics himself. In Manila, I was trained by the Philippine pioneers of Interventional Neuroradiology, Neurology, and Pharmacology/Toxicology. It was from this long view of being trained by pioneers that allowed me to project where medicine was headed 20 years ago. Today, advances in science and technology continue to make exponential trajectories, such that some biogerontology experts now hold the view that human beings alive today may be able to live indefinitely.
He pauses momentarily, “Personally, I prefer living a shorter life with vibrant health, rather than a longer life with chronic illness. But if it is possible to have both high quality and high quantity of life, then why not?” He is smiling broadly.
“I have taken all the hormones, nutrients, and occasional drugs I prescribe to my clients! I do not call them patients because they are not sick. So, when I prescribe you a health-optimizing regimen, I know exactly how you feel”
NOT SICK BUT NOT NECESSARILY WELL
The pioneering work of Dr. Ted’s HOMe® addresses hormonal and nutritional imbalances. It differs from the widely subscribed practice of diagnosing and treating disease. “Illness Medicine doctors use randomized clinical trials to prove than an antibiotic is effective and will use quantitative statistics in their analysis, HOMe makes no such claims of diagnosing and treating diseases. It uses a concept called “evidence-informed clinical care.” We will try to nudge your levels of vitamins and minerals closer to the levels you had when you were at your reproductive golden period and we will use qualitative statistics in our case reports. These two are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they fall in a continuum.
“When you go to an Illness Medicine doctor, you go for treatment of severe deficiencies or toxicities of, for example, thyroid hormones. When you go to a Health Optimization doctor, you go for the detection and correction of imbalances resulting from borderline deficiencies or subtle toxicities of, for example, Coenzyme Q10. The “fight” with Illness Medicine or Allopathic Medicine stems from the fact that Alternative Medicine, Complementary Medicine, Functional Medicine, and Integrative Medicine all diagnose and treat disease. Health Optimization Medicine does not diagnose and treat disease. Any benefit your disease gets from balancing the metabolomic network is a beneficial side effect. Just because you’re not sick does not mean you are well. It only means that you are not sick.”
The approach of BioBalance recognizes the unique make-up of every individual. Drug therapies that work for one may not necessarily produce the same results for another. This is what Dr. Ted is up against. “Don’t you get sick and tired of all these arguments flying around that this vitamin is good for you or that mineral is bad for you?” he asks. “Why not measure their levels instead before giving any of them? Unlike in Illness Medicine, where this number of milligrams taken this number of times a day is the adult dose, one size does not fit all in Health Optimization Medicine. You may need Vitamin C supplementation but I may not. You should be taking supplementation with doses bespoke for you.
“When I first started my HOMe practice, I was getting calls from other doctors asking me, “Ted, how are your vitamins, minerals, and hormones going to affect my drug therapy?” I answered, “You have the question in reverse. How is your drug therapy going to affect the hormone and nutrient levels of the body? My hormones and nutrients are required by the body. Your drug has never even been seen by the body in the course of human evolution.”
“The prescription for optimal health is very simple. Sleep well, eat well, hydrate well, breathe well, move well, sun well, ground well, relate well, and love well.”
THE DIET THAT WORKS
He is done with his lunch and the question on diets had to be asked. “I promote that which will work to achieve your goals. If you want to be a competitive bodybuilder, then you will have a different diet from a professional triathlete. If you want to be healthy, then you will have a different diet from someone who just wants to lose weight quickly to fit into some fancy clothes. Practically, if you are going to be running around all the time as part of an active lifestyle, then your ratio of macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats will be different than if you were sedentary. You just juggle those macronutrients around to achieve your goals.
“But what I’m strict about are micronutrients, your vitamins, minerals, and co-factors that are required by body to keep running optimally. They should always be measured and balanced, no matter what fancy-named diet you find yourself eating. Many fad diets are notorious for creating severe micronutrient deficits. Have your levels checked before and during dieting, in case you are tempted to commit to one of those. I am not asking you not to try what you want. Just give your body some love by making sure that you give it all the micronutrients that it needs to make it happy.”
Responding to the concern on food that is compromised by pollution, additives and genetic modification he says, “Cheat with science and technology! If you love pasta, use high-fiber, high-protein, gluten-free pasta. You can also start using air filters and ionizers to clean up your air. Drink water run through reverse-osmosis filters, remineralized, and vortexed. To help you sleep, put on some blue wavelength blocking glasses a couple of hours before sleep. And as a birthday gift to yourself every year, get your nutrient levels tested so you know what supplements to take.” Dr. Ted is flashing that convincing smile again.
This story originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Lifestyle Asia magazine.
How many mitochondria exist in a cell?
That depends on the cell type. Mature red blood cells, for example, have no mitochondria, but immature ones do. The immature red blood cell mitochondria are the places where “heme” of hemoglobin begins to form. The liver and brain cells, on the other hand, have 1,000 to 2,000 mitochondria per cell. They are highly metabolically active and need a lot of energy to perform their function. I say each cell has an average of about 500 mitochondria, but that is inaccurate because, as in the mature red blood cells versus liver cells above, the distribution is quite skewed. It’s like taking the average net worth of 1,000 persons and including Bill Gates in the sample.
What makes the mitochondria so important?
Mitochondria produce most of the “energy money” called ATP for use by the body. Without ATP to use as energy, you can’t do anything – not even breathe! In fact, they are called your cells’ “batteries.” But they are more interesting than that. They are actually bacteria that live symbiotically inside our cells. They have their own circular DNA and reproduce by fission, just like any other bacteria. Imagine, there are about a quadrillion of these bacteria living inside our cells!
The neat thing about them is you only inherit them from your Mom. A famous researcher has fully mapped out our “Mitochondrial Eve” from out of Africa. Oh, and this would pique your interest: They are the only organelles inside the cell that can metabolize fat into ATP. If you cook, you will inadvertently dirty-up the kitchen. Think of this dirt as signals for inflammation. If you do not mop the kitchen with the right amount of antioxidants, then this chronic dirt can signal for molecular inflammation. Molecular inflammation is now known as the basic condition that starts the chain of events leading to chronic diseases of the brain, like Alzheimer’s, the heart like atherosclerosis, the lungs, the eyes, the kidneys, and other organs.
What has been the rate of success of interventional endocrinology as you have practiced it? Please cite three cases.
Illness Medicine uses quantitative statistics, so there, rates of success apply. For example, there is a certain percent success rate of treating a bacterial infection with antibiotics. Health Optimization Medicine or HOMe, part of which is Interventional Endocrinology, uses qualitative statistics, and here, case reports apply.
One of the stated goals of Anti-Aging Medicine is “morbidity compression,” or decreasing the number of times you get sick before you die. In fact, a few anti-aging scientists now believe that you should not get sick at all before you die – and just wait for the singularity when you can part your consciousness into a robotic body. I had a client once who said, “Dr. Ted, I’ve been a year under your core. I have not noticed any difference.” I asked, “How many times in a year did you get sick before my core?” “Six,” she said. “How many times did you get sick this year?” “Not once… oh!” That is the nature of prevention. Everything is seen through the rear-view mirror. If the World Trade Center wasn’t bombed, then no one would ever know the efforts that were made to deter it successfully.
HOMe practice makes no claims. So when my diabetics see that their blood sugar, insulin, and HbA1c are now all normal without the use of any drugs, they tell me, “Dr. Ted, why don’t you advertise that you can reverse diabetes?” “Because HOMe makes no claims,” I say. “Your diabetes getting cured is just a beneficial side effect of correcting the imbalances of hormones and nutrients in your body.”
Can interventional endocrinology reverse a genetic predisposition to diseases?
Have you heard of the science called Epigenetics? A way to imagine Epigenetics is by speaking the sentence, “Stop it.” I can say it in a loud and harsh tone as if commanding a child in his terrible twos, or I can utter it flirtatiously as if being tickled softly by a sensual lover. Either way, sentence (the DNA code, which is encompassed by the study of Genetics) remains the same, but the expressions of the code (the Epigenetics) are vastly different.
So, the science of Epigenetics is the study of how the expression of genes can be modified, without actually altering the DNA code itself. Not only hormones, but also nutrients can attach molecules to DNA to signal a gene to change its expression – to start, stop, increase or decrease its production of certain enzymes and proteins. While balanced hormone pairs the estrogen and progesterone are known to other gene expression, I find nutrients more surprising in the action. Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, for example, has been shown to silence the expression of certain cancer-causing genes. Now, don’t go about drinking red wine just because it has resveratrol. You need hundreds of bottles of it for a single dose!